Friday, July 16, 2010

Say "No" to the culture of negativity

that seems to characterize us! I'm currently at a conference where I was presented with the following: psychologist Martin Seligman reviewed the history of American Psychological Association research abstracts from 1967 - 2000. The subjects of the research broke down:

  • 4484—Anger
  • 44,416—Anxiety
  • 54,040—Depression
  • 415—Joy
  • 1710—Happiness
  • 2582—Life Satisfaction
That's a ratio of 21:1, negative to positive life situations/emotions. 21 to 1! The conference presenters asserted as well that our language presents a similar lean-to-the-negative.

So, where does this come from? Is it some remnant of a fear-based culture where, if we don't keep from offending the gods, we'll be thrown into a volcano? And isn't it counter-productive, this focus on the negative? I remember learning, as a graduate student, that medieval "Penitentials" (the manuals priests would use to assign appropriate penances to sinners) were often more suggestive to the penitent: 'Well, my child, have you done XXX?" "No, Father" . . . (but that sure sounds like fun!).

I'm not saying we don't need laws. Most of us recognize that we need laws to help keep people from doing bad, or anti-social, things (so what was with those early Israelites that they were NOT honoring their father and mother?). But if our culture/society is so negatively-based, aren't we creating a negative atmosphere? Perpetuating a culture of fear? Which creates a "hunker-down" mentality.

It's a challenge. I try to keep this idea before me (I've thought about this for some time -- the statistics just made it more urgent): "Can I express my ideas with positive language, rather than negative?" It's not easy!! We seem to be conditioned to be negative. But, if we focus on the positive, we're more likely to get what we want. Working towards something is easier (and more satisfying) than refraining from something.

Try it for a while-couching things in the positive, and let me know how it goes!



1 comment:

  1. I need to find you an article I read that links positive thought and emotion with expanded perception. Literally increased brain activity on fMRI, more sensory input and better peripheral vision. Freaky huh!